Friday, June 29, 2007

I'm "IT"...

Apparently, there's this thing called being tagged. Basically, if you get tagged, you have to list eight facts about yourself. Then, you have to tag eight other folks, go to their blogs, and let them know they've been tagged...
I have to post the official rules, which are:
1) Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves.
2) The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed.
3) At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
I know, I already told you before I posted the rules what the rules are, but rules are in fact rules.
Here goes...

1) I was born on January 1, 1985. I was the first baby born in Cleveland ( since then it's been downhill. My folks missed the tax deduction by one day, and the rest is history).
2) I can wiggle each eyebrow independant of the other; I have many other facial features that come naturally.
3) Coming from a Hungarian/Chassidic background, I've become increasingly interested in my roots over the past seven years or so... I would like to put on some variation of the levush after I marry.
4) Boxer briefs. Best of both worlds, I say...
5) I love comic books.
6) I sometimes experience severe bouts of personal hypochondria, in private. I'll be laying in bed, and I'll feel a dull throb, and my imagination takes it from there.
7) I've been clean for almost two years now, thank God. I'm more or less straightedge, with the exception of Purim and the occasional L'Chaim on Shabbos.
8) I make a mean macaroni and cheese.

Those are facts that don't usually come up in my posts. I was gonna write some deeper stuff, but what the hey: anything else usually crops up...

I tag: Lvnsm27, Epes A Chosid, Doodlehead, Sweet Rose, The Dreamer, David On The Lake, Reb Y., and Kismet.
P.S. A special thanks to
tnspr569, who tagged me...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Dreamer, as I promised. This is old stuff...

There were things I hoped I could tell you
things that you should have known
but for sins of the past, the interest will accrue
and I'm left to reap what I've sown

In this time of joy, I should relate
happiness that I really should share
I'm lacking closure, it seems like fate
and it's too late now, I fear

Tried patching things up, but it didn't work well
once, you were my best friend
now I'm stuck in this personal hell
and it feels like this is the end

Want to tell you how happy I am
but it feels so insincere
slipping through my fingers, you're like the sand
so hard to keep my eyes clear

Don't want to feel like I'm suffering a loss
and you're gone from me for good
but it's hard to tell my feelings who's boss
and put myself in a better mood

To suppress my emotions wouldn't help at all
for I'd have a vague sense that I lied
the higher I raise myself, the deeper I'll fall
and another part of me will have died

but I must move on, no matter the cost
it's the only way to stay sane
we're growing up, and you're not really lost
sometimes, in life there is pain

I can never feel there's no more time
as long as I breathe, there's a chance
we move along, towards our prime
for you, I will always dance

I'll remember all the good times we had
all the conversations, meaningful and deep
lifting each other up, when we were feeling sad
those memories will be mine, to keep.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Road Trip!

So, this past weekend, I drove home for Shabbos.
My mother bought a piece of furniture here in the tri-state area, and needed it brought home as soon as possible. We had an off Shabbos, so it worked out. My parents weren't home for Shabbos, but I was able to eat and spend quality time with my relatives, so it was cool.
Originally, another guy who lives in Cleveland was supposed to make the trip with me, but he backed out at the last minute, so I drove by myself. It was long, and tiring, but never boring.
I had my iPod, and though I'm erasing songs already, there's still plenty of music. Enough for a seven hour trip, both ways. So, in an act of unprecedented genius, I decided to put the whole thing on shuffle, and let what came out determine the mood of the trip.
To start, I selected Bubba Sparxxx's song, Deliverance. Bubba is a mediocre rapper ( "He raps like he has Down's Syndrome, dude..." as a friend of mine so succinctly put it once. I agree with him, and hold him at second only to Fifty Cent - who raps like he's William Shatner with a speech impediment - as the worst rapper out there.), but that song happens to be one of the best road trip songs ever.
<----That's the track. Check it out.
After that came a bevy of songs. Rush's Spirit Of Radio. Metallica's One. 311's Amber.

A.O.J.'s Freedom. Atmosphere's Always Coming Home To You. Eric Clapton's Layla. Grateful Dead's Sugaree. ZZ Top's Tush. Matisyahu's Warrior (from the original studio recording Shake Off The Dust...Arise). Acharit Hayamim's Ein Yiush. Shadows Fall's Inspiration On Demand. Tears For Fear's Shout. MC Hammer's Can't Touch This. Beastie Boys' Intergalactic Planetary. Bob Marley's Stir It Up. Pearl Jam's Even Flow. Youngblood Brass Band's The Movement.

Nonpoint's Endure. Victor Wooten's Victa. Chimaira's Implements Of Destruction. Rebbe Shlomo's Hisna'ari. Jaco Pastorius's Portrait Of Tracy ( which has some of the sickest harmonics ever!).

Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell ( which is an awesome song but feels like it goes on forever...). Reva L'Sheva's Wedding Rings.
Anyhow, you can see there was a large variety of music going on.
About halfway through the trip - which comprises of tearing through Pennsylvania on the 80 West for over close to 500 miles - I started to feel very, very drowsy. The music only affected that feeling even worse; at that point, I was listening to very atmospheric samples and sound effects courtesy of the Mars Volta ( their song's are retarded sometimes with all the crap they throw in at the end...). I needed a boost. I was driving alone, and I didn't want anything to happen.
I pulled into the next rest stop and made myself a cocktail consisting of two cans of Red Bull and a couple of Excedrin ( for those of you who don't know, Excedrin is an over the counter pain killer that is loaded with caffeine. It's for migraines and all night cramming). Next thing I know, I'm back on the 80, doing 95 miles an hour, and my hands are shaking like a belly dancer with Parkinson's. Pantera's Strength Beyond Strength segues straight into Metallica's Hit The Lights. Next comes Rage Against The Machine's Testify followed by Sepultura's Roots Bloody Roots. At this rate, I figure I'll be home much sooner than expected.
Of course, as an unforseen side effect of my alchemy with the Red Bull and Excedrin, for the duration of the trip I had to stop almost every forty minutes to pee.
Shabbos was very nice. It was good to be home, despite the fact that my folks weren't. I bonded with my cousin, and got to see the few friends I still have in Cleveland.
The ride back was pretty uneventful. I got stuck in a nasty snarl of traffic for an hour and a half. The Beatle's Hey Jude came on, and I had a good time blaring it at the loudest with the windows down. The car next to me even helped sing along to the na na na na nanananaaaaa part. Run D.M.C.'s Bounce took the edge off of the waiting, creeping along at less than 5 mph. A Tribe Called Quest perked me up with Buggin' Out. Queen's We Are The Champions came next, followed by Rakim's Microphone Fiend.
After the traffic, I picked the pace back up, reflected by Audioslave's Set It Off. 12 Stones rocked out with Far Away. I stopped to refill my tank and use the bathroom, and once I was back on the road, my sister called me.
While I was talking to her, I noticed that the whole car stank like gas. Was there a leak? Were fumes filling up the car? How can I tell? In a whirling moment of ridiculousness, I lit up my lighter. Maybe this in fact was a stupid idea, being that if my car was indeed filling up with gas fumes, I could kill myself. Huh. I'm still here, though...
I got in safely after a grueling eight and a half hours. It was lonely, but I kept myself company. I'm glad I did it. It's an accomplishment, and I do enjoy driving...
See you later...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day

When you first held me
did you know what
was in store
for you
for me
for us?
----------------------------Did it matter then?
Was there
a quid pro quo
a pre-partum agreement
Checking the pros
and cons
of an investment
for life
for generations?
----------------------------Did it matter then?
The good times
the bad ones
The triumphs
the disappointments
the simple fact that
I would forever mirror you
and you, me?
----------------------------Did it matter then?
Did you have it all
carefully planned
even then
the lessons you'd impart
the hopes you'd hold dear
the secrets that you'd
clutched tightly to you
knowing, praying
I'd learn them
myself, in my own time?
----------------------------Did it matter then?
Do you live that moment
over and over
and over?
Do you ask yourself
the questions
I am asking you?
----------------------------Does it matter?
Would you change
Anything at all?
Knowing what you know
does it make any
----------------------------No, it doesn't.
And tell me also
did you wonder
if I
in turn
will ask myself these
and will my son ask me?
---------------------------Every day...

Happy Father's Day, dad. You won't read this, but that doesn't matter...

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I wanted to post this before I went out of town.
Last week's Parsha ( weekly Torah portion that is read ), is pretty full. We start off with God telling Moshe to send spies to check out the land which they've been promised. We know how that story ends...
After that, there's the directive that pertains to Challah.
Then, almost as an interlude, we read about the man who gathered wood on Shabbos, thereby breaking the laws of Shabbos.
The portion ends off with the directive of Tzitzit.
Now, we know that the juxtaposition of the story of the spies and the events at the end of the Parsha that preceded it ( Miriam's discussion with Aharon about Moshe, and her subsequent punishment ) is meant to teach us the importance - and gravity - of the sin of Lashon HaRah ( Rashi explains that if Miriam, who was only speaking out of concern for her brother, and she was as righteous as they come was afflicted, then certainly those who are lesser and are slandering shouldn't speak of others).
Also, according to the Ohr HaChaim, Tzitzis immediately follows the story of the "wood gatherer" ( which is how it's referred to) for a good reason. He quotes the Tana D'Bei Eliyahu: After the story of the "wood gatherer", Moshe spoke to God, saying that during the week, the Jews have tefillin to remind them of all the mitzvot. But what about Shabbos? On Shabbos, tefillin are considered muktzah, and can't be worn on Shabbos. What will remind them, then? To which God replied that He would give them Tzitzit, which are always worn, and will serve as a reminder of all 613 mitzvot, even on Shabbos ( see Rashi for a nifty gematria).

This is all very nice, but the entire shabbos, I kept wondering whether there was any connection between the story of the spies, and the fact that Tzitzit is written here ( the bookends, so to speak ), in the same portion. I looked everywhere, but couldn't find any correlation, and I was dismayed. Obviously, there's no coincidence, right?

A few days ago, I was listening to a speech from R' Yissochar Frand, and he dropped the answer in my lap.

The mitzvah of Tzitzit is a fundamental of Judaism, not unlike Shabbos, or prayer. However, unlike those other two, Tzitizit are not obligatory; one doesn't have to wear Tzitzit unless he is wearing a four cornered garnment. But if he doesn't wear a four cornered garment, he is not neglecful. Why is this? If Tzitzit are indeed fundamental, why did God make it optional?
Here's the answer: Twice in this Parsha we see an interseting choice of words. At the beginning, God tells Moshe to send spies "LaSur Es Ha'Aretz". By Tzitzit, God tells us "V'Lo SaSuru Acharei L'Vavechem". The connection is as follows: The spies was something that neither God nor Moshe wanted. The nation came to Moshe and told him that they wanted to send spies. God said, "Fine. I'm giving you this option. Send for yourself men..." This was something optional that became an unmitigated disaster.

God is telling us with the mitzvah of Tzitzit - which are optional - that there are two ways to go about doing something that is optional. The right way, and the wrong way. You want to do something? Fine, go ahead. But do it right. The mitzvah of Tzitzit are meant to be a tikkun for the last option we had, and messed up on.

I'd like to add that the same could be said here. Blogging is an option. It's free, and most folks do it for free. But there's a right way, and a wrong way to do it. You can use the power, the influence, the near infinite reach of the internet to do much good, or much harm. Sadly, many use the internet and the blogosphere as a way to perpetuate their own unhappiness, be it with themselves, their religion, or whatever. A small few have dedicated themselves to making sure to use their option, their choice, in the right way, spreading positivity all around. Those folks are warriors, and they should be blessed...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Ziontrain interview and review: Eden MiQedem

Looking around the dimly lit club, I try to determine what kind of show to expect. The steadily filling room is already becoming crowded with a myriad of sorts: hipsters, hippies, a few Lubavitch fellows, married couples sitting together, having a laugh, beer for the men, non-acoholic soda for the ladies.
Kind of a mix, really.
But that's what can be expected when attending a show played by Eden Miqedem, the "newest" - and most exciting -act from Israel. Led by Shmuel Nelson, this band mixes all types of elements: Sephardic/Arabic/World music, lyrics from liturgy, tehillim, and original compositions, mixed with techno samples and goold old psychedelic rock.
This past Wenedsday's show, held at Triad, featured a more stripped down ensemble: Shmuel Nelson on lead guitar, accompanied by another guitar, a bass, a drum and a percussion section( what Shmuel jokingly called the "New York branch of Edem MiQedem". In truth the band was the lineup of the now defunct [ I believe] Shimshak band), causing the show to have more of a "rock" show.
For a first taste of the band, I couldn't have done any better. Song after song, I was dazzled by the music, the sound, and the ambiance. While Shmuel's banter may need to be tweaked, his soft spokenness and the feeling that a majority of attendees were friends of the band lent itself to the atmosphere, affecting a warm friendly surrounding. As a matter of fact, Shmuel's entire manner - from the way he speaks to the way he interacts with others - belies an intensity that one must witness. I had the pleasure of catching him after the show, and we rapped for a few minutes...
Jewmaican20: First of all, I'd like to thank you. That was truly amazing.
Shmuel Nelson: [ Nods head, smiles ] Thank you, thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
J: How long have you lived in Jerusalem?
S.N.: I've been living there for four years now...
J: How long have you been in the musical business, in the scene?
S.N.: Well, I've really been playing, making music since I was in high school. But in the business? Since I moved to Israel. I mainly play weddings with a band called "Et Hazamir".
J: Cool. So, what circles do you play in? Do you ever go to Kikar Tzion, jam with the bands that play there?
S.N.: I don't like to limit myself to any "circle", really. I haven't jammed with any of those bands, but I like to think that we connect with all sorts...This music is very broad. We have middle eastern elements, what some people in Israel call "ethnic"...
J: I noticed that several of your songs have Arabic in them...
S.N.: Yes. One song contains the Muslim call to prayer, that they use to call the faithful to worship...
J: The Muezzins...
S.N.: Exactly. The message of that particular call speaks to me, namely it's role in Islamic society, but in general, Arabic speaks to me. I speak Arabic, and it's an emotive language. One of the songs I played tonight, Mizmor LeSodah, I've translated into Arabic, and it's sung in both Arabic and Hebrew...
J: Wow...
S.N.: Yeah, it's very nice.
J: So, who would you say is your target demographic?
S.N.: Anybody. The widest possible. Obviously, people who have a taste in the psychedelica world, the ethnic and world genres, but really everybody...
J: So, how do you define your music?
S.N.:'s spiritual. Definitely. But I wouldn't define it as jewish, necessarily. It's got jewish prayers, but I want it to be for everyone...
J: I could tell that Floyd, the Dead, are influences of yours, but I'm curious as to what your major music influences are...
S.N.: I'm really into this style of music called Sha'abi ( an ethnic Egyptian form of music), obviously there's the rock influences. I've also been listening to DJ Cheb ( an Algerian jewish DJ who lived in France and now is based in San Francisco), and Natash Atlas, who is a big influence of mine...
J: Okay, great. Now, we both know how music is emotional, and sends messages on all levels, but if you had to speak your message, what would you say?
S.N.: [ Thinks for a minute ] Okay. First and foremost, in an expression of beauty. We believe through beauty we can connect to God, and to others. It can bring people together. Not everyone is ready for it; some are afraid of it... Especially now, it seems like a divine irony, all the discord going on back home ( Israel). We can't see the similarities between us ( Jews and Arabs), and maybe through this beauty, we can come together...

Here are two videos from the show...

Review: Eden Miqedem
First of all, unlike most Israeli made albums, this one has amazing quality; cystal clear.
As opposed to the show, which was a stripped, rockier version of their songs, the album boasts a rich sonic texture: Soaring flutes, violins, accompanied with techno samples and amzing instrumentation. Shmuel's Arabic inflections provide an exotic feel to anyone not familiar with this genre of music. I won't go through each song, but his choices of tehillim and liturgy are fine, and every track is fresh. His original poetry (as detailed in the liner notes) is breathtaking and authentic. This album is high on my list of must-haves.
Unfortunately, I don't believe that the album is available in most stores, so you'll have to visit their website:
It's worth it. Buy this album!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Have you ever experienced one of those occurances where in a split second, everything changes?
I did yesterday.
I went somewhere to get my new bass ( which I had been saving up for ). After picking it up from the shop, my sister called me to ask me to stop in a grocery store and pick her up some stuff. Right near the music store is a Shoprite, so I figure I'll duck in there. I'm going through the list my sister gave me. I turn into an aisle for the last thing on the list, and there she is.
It was one of those moments where you realize that what felt like years almost turned out to be a few months. I had almost forgotten what she looked like. Occasionally, when passing through her neighborhood, I'd be reminded of our time together, but still. I thought I had gotten over it.
She looked at me, and the tears were almost instantaneous.
Her mother aproached from behind her, a half smile on her face, as if she were about to share something with her daughter. That smile froze as soon as she saw me.
And I? I just stood there. Too scared, shocked, surprised to walk away. Not man enough to even feign nonchalance. I just stood there with my mouth open, my hand unconciously squeezing a grapefruit.
We were stuck in a stalemate, a heavy silence. The air seemed to thicken as the moments ticked on.
She broke first, spinning away and heading down the aisle, her shoulders shaking. Her mother fixed me with an icy glare; it wasn't a look I had seen ever. When I came to pick her daughter up she was always so gracious, courteous. And now I was treated like a villain.
My inaction seemed to be enough of an affirmation for her. She nodded a curt nod, turned, and folowed her daughter down the aisle.
Sorry sis, no groceries today. I left my cart there in the aisle, with the fabric softener, the Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo, and the grapefruits. Got in my car and snuck out of town as fast as possible.
The tears came once I was over the state line, back in Jersey, close to home. The ashtray was fuller now. I cursed myself for not answering the unspoken accusations; I convinced myself I didn't have to. Her mom's look was the worse of the two. I'm used to seeing disappointment in people's eyes. I'm used to the look of pain that they give me after I've hurt them. But the look her mother gave me, as if I was evil? That was too much for me.
They think it didn't hurt me too?
They think that I didn't agonize over the decision?
They don't understand what it is to accept something that doesn't seem fair, or right.
Do they?

Even the bass, the lovely, beautiful bass I just bought and had looked forward to playing for months sounded sad...